Two months ago my husband found a job in Phoenix at an engineering firm that designs and manufactures audio systems. Arizona has never been on my list of places to live, or visit. Coming from downtown SLC, and Florence, Italy, the last place I wanted to end up was a sprawling desert. I’m too accustomed to small, walkable, cities and I am a terrible driver. The job offer presented a great opportunity though so I tried to be supportive and excited to live in Phoenix because that’s the kind of wife I am.
It helps that two of my favorite people live in Phoenix, one of my younger sisters, and T-Bone, who you may or may not recognize from the story I wrote about my five minutes as a sort of “pimp” in my early twenties. Having the people that I enjoy nearby is incredibly important to my mental health. I’ve never been the type to be totally inspired by place, rather, I’m inspired by interesting people, awesome people, weird people, passionate people, kind people, unkind people who are gay and so for no reason their dickishness is hilarious. I just like “unique.” I hoped that being near people I loved would make the move more interesting, tolerable, fun even.
We arrived in AZ ten days ago and I’ve come to realize that Arizona isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It’s much worse. It was clearly one of the original mockups for hell. On our second day here we discovered that our adorable house was full of scorpions. Ugly, mean, death bugs who exist only to keep me up all night worried that as soon as I nod off, one will jump onto my face and sting out my eye, rendering me a pirate. These aren’t just your everyday scorpions, either, our house is packed with Bark Scorpion which are venomous and blend in perfectly with our tan marble floors, sand colored walls, and granite countertops. Every moment since we first saw one on that fateful day next to our screen door while letting our dog out to pee I’ve been nervous. I’m afraid of my own shadow. I can’t stop watching them attack things on YouTube.
Someone told us that you have to hunt them to get rid of them because they don’t respond to poison like other invertibrates. Hunt them? Apparently. They are a creature so terrible that the best way to kill them is with face-to-face combat, up close and personal which seems not only terrifying but difficult. I’ve learned from my obsessive Googling that scorpions are nearly industructable. Allegedly, they are one of the few creatures that can survive a nuclear attack without so much as a flinch. Scorpions are also very egotistical about their grossness, carrying their dozens of nasty babies around on their backs, practically shoving them into the faces of the world, “Look at the demon babies I’ve created and unleashed onto the innocent! LOOK AT THEM!” They scare the shit out of me.
Our very sweet landlord’s husband came over to help “us” hunt for them outside. I just stood in the background screaming maniacly. F kind of stood back. The husband bravely defended our territory with great vigor. He would scan the yard with a handheld black-light BECAUSE THEY FUCKING GLOW LIKE THE 1990’s, stab them with pliers and then kick the shit out of them. While this happened Oliver tried to eat one and he ran to me for safety like, “OUCH! My face hurts! Fix it!” And I was like, “WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU EAT!?” And he was like, “Why are you yelling at me!?” After our landlord’s husband had fought 15 scorpions he took a deep breathe and said, “I’ll be honest guys, this is the most scorpions I’ve ever seen as someone’s house. You’re going to need to call a scorpion guy.” Those exist? Dante clearly spent some time in AZ before he took to poetry.
Yesterday the exterminator arrived in the early afternoon. I opened the door slowly because I’ve read that a huge percentage of rapes actually occur in the home. That’s why I also have more than one knife in various hiding spots throughout my house. It’s perfectly sane. Standing in front of me, where I expected to see an old, pudgy man, I found a young man in a safari hat with a matching blue button-down work shirt on our porch. “I hear you have a scorpion problem, ma’am.” I held back a laugh and imagined wind machines and seventies music. I texted my husband who was out, “You better hurry home. Our exterminator arrived. He’s young and cute and it’s like the beginning of a bad porn in here.” It took him about fifteen minutes to spray the inside and outside of our house with toxic material. My husband came home. Exterminator guy left. Scorpion came running out of the baseboard under my feet and I screamed so loud that my throat hurts today. It was a shrill, embarrassing scream, one that would suggest that I wouldn’t fair well in the wild. Mr. Exterminator came running back inside, “ARE YOU GUYS OKAY!?” I gestured to the floor and ran in circles. One of them accidentally stepped on it while searching it out. He picked the dead monster up by pliers, it dangled back and fourth, “It’s a Bark. It’s dead.”
I’m walking around our 80 degree house in thick slippers with solid bottoms, a small handheld black-light clenched in my fist, sweeping, sweeping the ground for that neon glow. I nearly peed myself this morning because I couldn’t sweep the bathroom with light fast enough to sit down.
And there are other things.
We drove to the vet yesterday because our dog can’t stop sneezing since we arrived. Could be allergies or something native to AZ called the valley flu or something. It involves sneezing, coughing, limping and death or something terrible. I searched the car for Scorpions while Oliver sneezed in the backseat, Francesco sang The Postal Service songs. Our phones screamed so loud we both leapt in our seats, fumbling for our phones. I grabbed mine, the screen showed, “EMERGENCY! DUST STORM HEADING IN YOUR DIRECTION. DO NOT DRIVE UNTIL AFTER 5 p.m.”
I looked at Francesco. “Where in the hell are we!?” He shrugged. “Arizona.”